On December 29, 2010, The Wall Street Journal published an article entitled "Delaying College to Fill in the Gaps," quoting NOLS grad Ben Parker. Ben was accepted by the University of Iowa but deferred his admission to spend a fall Semester in the Rockies. Ben is part of a larger wave of high school graduates who are choosing to take a "gap year."
Using the word "gap" to define the year a student may take between high school and college is an interesting choice. Standing alone, the word "gap" conjures images of empty spaces or an interruption in continuity, like a gap in a fence. As the Wall Street Journal article and other sources suggest, this choice of language our culture has chosen to use around this year is beginning to take a positive turn. When one considers a gap year to be a time when a student chooses to experience life outside the conventional four walls of a classroom and see all the exciting opportunities, that 'gappy,' empty space begins to fill with boundless, new ideas.
In the U.K., the gap year is better known as 'The Sandwich Year' because of all the delicious meaty goodness that can be packed and layered into this time before college. The Wall Street Journal cited a few different reasons as to why students are attracted to the opportunity presented in a gap year. Whether it be a loss in scholastic motivation, wanting to proactively choose your own life course, or the need for adventure, I believe a course with NOLS can develop one of the yummiest and tongue tantalizing Sandwich Year's around!
Not only does a NOLS student embark upon physically rigorous challenges where his or her limits are drawn out, confronted and often defied, but a mental, 'academic' aspect, if you will, is also a pivotal piece of the NOLS experience. After all, we're called the National Outdoor Leadership School for a reason. Let's come back to the fence image associated with the word 'gap' so I may better illustrate for you why the word 'gap' just doesn't quite do time spent at NOLS justice:
So, there's a white picket fence dotting the sidewalk of life, each white, angular picket representing a year in an individual's education. Looking back upon that line of proverbial fencing, for students pursuing a NOLS course during their gap year, onlookers see a post proudly stamped between two other white posts that shoots skyward and glows with brilliant audacity, proudly waving neon colored flags rooted in rich flora and fauna. Wow, what a post! What a year! What an education! I don't know about you, but I want to experience neon colors and wild flowers, some variety and flair! While some more conventional academics may see this gap year as 'empty space,' I surely don't know of many individuals who find time spent on a NOLS course a problematic change in pace, but rather, a shining pinnacle in their academic pursuit.